Special Open Door Forum on Competitive Bidding Draws a Crowd, Many Questions

The day after the final DMEPOS competitive bidding rule was published in the Federal Register, more than 1,100 DME suppliers, clinicians and other stakeholders phoned in to a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Special Open Door Forum conference call dedicated especially to that topic.

CMS representatives spent the first 45 minutes of the meeting reading and summarizing key portions of the final rule, which is 400 pages long. CMS' Laurence Wilson also provided a timeline describing how CMS expects the competitive bidding program to roll out:

ù April 2: Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) and product categories to be competitively bid are announced.

ù April 9: Registration begins for suppliers who wish to submit competitive bids.

ù April 10: Final Rule is published in the Federal Register.

ù Late April: Bidding opens and continues for 60 days.

ù Late June: Bidding window ends. No bids to be accepted after the 60-day bidding window.

ù December 2007: Winning bidders are announced.

ù January 2008: Education campaign begins to teach beneficiaries and referral sources about competitive bidding policies and procedures.

ù April 2008: Competitive bidding prices go into effect.

Among the key final rule points, said CMS' Joel Kaiser, is that participating suppliers must furnish a bid for every item within the product category, and must agree to furnish each item in the category to every Medicare beneficiary who requests it and has a permanent address in the competitive bidding area. Kaiser also emphasized that each submitted bid must be below the current CMS fee schedule for that item. Suppliers with winning bids would be required to honor their bid prices for the entire length of their contract with CMS, which cannot be longer than three years.

In response to a question from Georgie Blackburn, president of the Pennsylvania Association of Medical Equipment Suppliers, Kaiser pointed out that the CMS DMEPOS Competitive Bidding Implementation Contractor (CBIC) Web site now features lists of the HCPCS codes and product descriptions that are to be competitively bid. For instance, under Complex Rehabilitative Power Wheelchairs & Related Accessories are the codes E0950-E2369. All those codes, which run the gamut from wheelchair trays to motors to gear boxes, are part of the competitive bidding program.

Suppliers can go to the CBIC Web site ( www.dmecompetitivebid.com/cbic/cbic.nsf/(pages)/home ) to look up product categories and the individual codes that make up each category.

In response to the intense interest in this meeting, CMS representatives said the usual "Encore" audio recording of the Open Door Forum would be available for a longer time than usual. CMS' Natalie Highsmith said stakeholders can call (800) 642-1687 and enter conference number 2739332 to listen to the recording, which will be available until April 20.

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